Late Summer Showcase

By Nitin Suneja

Killer DNA

Shane and Mila had spent years perfecting their understanding of genetics. They wanted to ensure their first child would have the best start in life. After years of setbacks and rejections, they finally got the approvals they needed from the Ethics Committee. Their patience had been rewarded and their research approved for human trials. They were ready to have a child. Potentially even the future of humanity. 

Adam truly was a remarkable child, but that was to be expected of course. You just had to look at his parents. Both mother and father were at peak health and highly intelligent. A brief look at their families showed no major illnesses through the last three generations. He was essentially the human equivalent of a race horse. 

Now, twelve years later, Shane and Mila were forced to watch impatiently through the two-way mirror as their dear son is put through his paces. The testing process had been a long and arduous journey, but they were confident they had done everything possible to prepare Adam. They were now at the final hurdle. The end of the testing when they would find out if they were successful and if their benefactors would provide them with the additional funding required to take the trials to the next level. 

They look on through the windows as Adam remains seated in the centre of the room. His slim statuesque form remains unmoving in the chair, patiently waiting for whatever undisclosed test was coming next. His onlooking parents appeared more stressed than him. Actually, Shane had seen him this way before. It is almost as though he was focusing on something, but in all these years, he never truly understood what went on in Adam’s mind. 

For no apparent reason, Adam shifts his stance. The shift is barely discernible, but Shane picked up on it. He knew this sign. It always preceded an event which Adam seemed to know was coming before it did. 

The door swings silently open. They watch as their old friend and colleague walks into the room. “Hi Adam,” she greets him warmly. “Are you ready?” she says ruffling his hair as she walks past him. 

His body still perfectly still, he nods his head, once again a barely noticeable movement. Jane moves to stand beside him and places her hand reassuringly on his shoulder. 

“Do you know what the final test is Adam?” 

“I am not sure. The team has tested me on all of the areas you have trained me on…” He pauses, contemplating the situation.  

The wrinkles appear on Shane’s forehead as they usually do when something confuses him. Even he thought it was unusual when Jane originally mentioned the final test. She wouldn’t explain what it was, just that they needed to ensure Adam expected nothing. Both Shane and Mila had been monitoring Adam’s progress during all of the training sessions except of course the outdoor fitness sessions when Jane took him out alone to the obstacle course in the forest. Jane steps backwards from Adam towards the corner of the room. Before disappearing to the right of the mirrored wall, they see her remove a remote from her left pocket, her finger poised threateningly over the only button in the middle. 

“… except one…” Adam’s delayed response is not lost on anyone. Jane flexes her thumb and presses the button.  The lights go out in the room. 

Shane and Mila stare at the mirror as the lights go down in their room plunging them all into darkness. The room would be pitch black if not for the imperceptibly dim lights in the room beyond the mirrored wall. Stunned, they wait, terrified for their only son. They hear shuffling sounds through the intercom system. A mechanical sound like a door sliding almost silently, but not quite, open. 

Shane tries to focus on the chair where Adam was just moments ago. Mila has turned her back to the wall, tears streaming down her face and gratefully hidden in the darkness. Shane does not notice. His attention is on his only son. He can barely make out the outline of the chair. And Adam is not in it. More shuffling. Tears blurring her vision, Mila turns the handle on the door to find it electronically locked. 

A whispered sound emanates from the intercom. A thump as something hits a solid object. Silence. A brief scuffle followed by another thump. 

“The door’s locked,” Mila states silently sobbing. 

Shadows move within shadows in the room. An almost silent whimper can be heard: the tell-tale sound of fear before a final thump propels him hard against the mirrored wall. 

Shane and Mila both jump back instinctively as the outline of the adult body slams hard against the mirrored wall in front of them again. The persons head tilts sharply forward as though pulled with incredible force and is then rammed hard against the glass wall, fractures appearing in the glass, accentuated by the red blood like veins of lava crawling down a volcano. The dead body slides pathetically to the floor leaving nothing but the blacked-out room ahead of them. 

Deafening silence. 

A click and a hum as the room lights flicker on again. Adam is sitting completely still in the chair with his back to his parents. If not for the three bodies lying still on the floor his parents could have thought nothing had happened. 

Jane steps back into view again as the door silently opens once more. 

Shane presses his hands on the mirror desperate to understand what just happened. His brain sees his son before he notices the bodies strewn around the room. Relief is replaced by stunned disbelief still affecting his ability to process the situation. Who are those people on the floor? How, no, why did Jane do this to them? Were they a threat to Adam? He needed answers and soon. 

“What happened Jane?” 

“Really Shane?” a disembodied voice he did not recognise said. “I thought you were smart?” 

A man dressed in high ranking military uniform steps into the room from the right followed closely by two armed guards. 

“Who are they Jane?” Shane asks indicating the new arrivals. “And why is this room still locked?” 

“Congratulations Jane,” Admiral Bower says ignoring Shane. “This truly is impressive. You have the latest DNA results?” 

“Yes Sir,” she pulls a folded piece of paper out from her pocket and hands it to him. 

Admiral Bower slowly unfolds the paper as though he had all the time in the world. 

“Abnormal?” he comments while reading, one eyebrow raised quizzically. 

“That is correct Sir. No-one has DNA like Adam. He is truly unique.” 

“Not for long,” he smiles. “Consider your funding approved.” 

“Wait,” Shane calls from the locked room. “Her funding? This is our research. What is happening here?” 

Admiral Bower dismissively addresses Shane without even looking in his direction, “You were never in charge! Now let the adults to talk.” 

“I need an ETA for the first one hundred and for the clone oven by the morning. Include your initial funding requirements. And consider it approved with immediate effect Jane. I want work to commence tomorrow morning.” 

“That’s our funding. What the hell is going on here?” Shane shouts, the anger seething within him now. Mila slumps to the floor, her back supported by the wall and her knees held tight against her chest. 

Jane looks at the Admiral, “The scientists Sir?” Admiral Bower glances at the mirror before nodding his head. The lights glow brightly in the concealed room revealing Shane like a specimen in a jar. 

“My dear Shane,” Jane responds. “You always were so charmingly naive. What did you think we were doing here all these years?” 

“The mission. The same mission. What else Jane?” He takes a deep breath. “Humanity is doomed to fail. We need to eradicate illness to ensure humanity has a future. Nothing has changed over all these years.” The confusion is now evident in his voice. 

“Well,” Jane states thoughtfully, “you are right on one point at least. The mission has not changed. We were just never on the same mission. You thought you were going to save humanity? Humanity can’t be saved in the way you think Shane. Medicine is simply not enough anymore. We need weapons to win this war. And Adam has just become the prototype.” 

“Wait, what? Are you insane? Adam,” he says looking directly at his son. “Come to me.” 

For the first time, Adam stands and turns to face them. Blood is spattered across the front of his clothes and face. His small hands are red as summer blossom roses. He reaches his hand out and clasps Jane’s empty hand, the poison dagger into Shane’s heart. 

“Do you want to do it Adam?” Jane holds the remote out, tapping a button to signify which one to press. 

Shane watches helpless as his son takes the remote and presses the button. Gas floods into the room through the open vents. Shane’s head drops before he slumps voluntarily to floor beside Mila, his beloved wife before accepting the inevitability of their approaching death. 

Rift Wars by Nitin Suneja available now.



August Showcase

By Philip Appleton


From Philip’s memoir – completed, and under assessment for publication


“The moving story of an airline pilot’s remarkable journey – one that takes him from 30,000 feet to the depths of despair, before finding a new life as an actor – and ultimately ways to fly free again.”

Air Vice-Marshal Dr Paddy O’Connor had a penchant for clotted cream. There was a small pot of it on his antique desk in his Harley Street office, which looked more like a Victorian drawing room than a consulting room. With the fading carpet and the quiet ticking of the wall clock, it was not how I had imagined God’s office would be. The books were also unexpected, on subjects ranging from black magic to neurological dysfunction, though there was a discreet portrait of the Virgin Mary and Child on a shelf. As a consultant in neurology and psychiatry to the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and British Airways, Dr O’Connor was The Supreme Being as far as I was concerned.

Short, frail and bald, he was responsible for drafting the international legislation on the psychiatric aspects of aircrew licensing. At 2.30pm on 24th September 1981 he finally destroyed my dream of being a pilot that had begun when I was an eleven-year-old boy, and had given me eight years of work in a profession open to only a few. As I listened to Dr O’Connor’s words about stringent international medical regulations, I felt the cold shock of reality. The AVM was old, wise and kindly, the perfect guy to deliver bad news, in his soft Irish accent. I knew it was coming and the nightmare was real, I just didn’t understand how I had got to that place. Patiently, the AVM listened to the reasons why I claimed I was well, then tore them to shreds. I would never fly again.

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